Bills to Update Human Trafficking Reporting Head to Governor

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Assemblymember Miguel Santiago and Senator Henry Stern join efforts on key bills that tackle the tragedy of human trafficking in California.

(Sacramento) -- Yesterday, Assembly Bill 260, authored by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) and Senate Bill 225, authored by Senator Henry Stern (D- Canoga Park), passed the California Legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support. The dual measures, backed by the Conference of California Bar Associations, the California National Organization of Women and the National Council of Jewish Women, represent another helpful step to battle human trafficking.

Data collected from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) indicates that hotels and motels are prime locations for human trafficking. Victims of human trafficking are often forced to stay in hotels or motels where customers either come to them, or they are required to go to rooms rented out by the customers. Victims can also be forced to work in hotels or motels by corrupt subcontracting companies or can be part of sales crews forced to sell products from city to city and reside in hotel/motel rooms while on the road. These arrangements are often unbeknownst to hotel management.

California law requires certain businesses and establishments to post a notice with information on human trafficking resources, including national and statewide hotlines. Each year, the National Human Trafficking Hotline yields thousands of cases (7,572 cases in 2016 alone) with usage going up consistently each year. Notices must be posted near the entrance of the establishment in clear view of the public and employees, in both English and Spanish or any other language widely spoken in the county. Current law excludes hotels and motels from being required to post this notice despite the high frequency of trafficking occurring in these locations. 

“AB 260 simply adds hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts to the list of the businesses already required to post the notice,” said Assemblymember Miguel Santiago. “There is overwhelming evidence that these are prime locations for human trafficking. These life-saving notices will provide victims of human trafficking with crucial information that can lead to rescue and follow-up services and will also increase awareness about trafficking among hotel staff and the public,” he continued.  

Anti-Trafficking advocates and law enforcement have recently reported the need to update the DOJ’s notice to inform the public that they can text, in addition to call, the hotline numbers for assistance. Given modern advances in telecommunications, texting has become not only a more common form of communication among California’s population, but also a preferred means of communication to protect victims and witnesses of human trafficking.  For trafficking victims who find themselves in situations where their abuser is in the next room, or just a few steps away, texting is many times the only option for their safety and confidentiality.SB 225 would require the DOJ to revise the notice to include the option of texting, in addition to calling the state and national hotlines for assistance.

“Human trafficking is not just a global scourge, it's a multibillion dollar criminal enterprise in our own backyards,” remarked Senator Henry Stern. “I am proud to have partnered with Assemblymember Santiago on this legislative package to make our human trafficking hotlines more accessible to youth victims and more prominent at hotels and motels. We need young people and business leaders to step up and do their part to stop human trafficking in California.”

Claire Lipschultz, who represents the National Council of Jewish Women, CA, and who worked on the original hotline posting law, explains that the "human trafficking hotlines have proven to be lifelines for victims of human trafficking. An AB 260 and SB 225 enhancement to the current hotline posting law continues California's leadership in the fight against modern day slavery."

By publicizing life-saving resources in hotels and motels and enabling text messages to be sent to the hotlines, AB 260 and SB 225 create greater opportunity for victim reporting and rescue.

Both measures will be considered by Governor Jerry Brown within the next 30 days for signature. 

Assemblymember Miguel Santiago is the Majority Whip of the California State Assembly and sits on the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee. He represents the 53rd District composed of the cities of Los Angeles, Huntington Park, and Vernon.

Henry Stern is Chair of the Senate Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments, and the first millennial elected to the California State Senate. He represents nearly 1 million residents of the 27th Senate District, which includes Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Hidden Hills, Malibu, Moorpark, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village, part of Santa Clarita and the following Los Angeles communities: Canoga Park, Chatsworth, Encino, Porter Ranch, Reseda, Tarzana, West Hills, Winnetka, and Woodland Hills.